ZERO UI: The Touchless Future of Customer Experience

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In the past 18 months the pandemic has made us hyper-aware of what we touch, and how often we wash or sanitize our hands has become as second nature of a habit as glancing at our smartphones an average of 58 times a day (yep, that’s an actual statistic!) Even as the pandemic starts to wind down, one major leftover of our Covid-19 existence seems to be a continued and even increased call for a sanitized, safety-conscious experience in all things.

The near exponential growth of eCommerce over the past year is a direct example of the new consumer expectations.  As lockdowns became the new normal, businesses and consumers increasingly “went digital”, providing and purchasing more goods and services online, raising e-commerce’s share of global retail trade from 14% in 2019 to about 17% in 2020, and this is expected to jump to as high as 22% in 2021.

Customer expectations have heightened as purchase priorities have shifted and buying behavior has changed. The transition toward interfaces that rely on voice, gesture, and proximity instead of touch a movement called “zero UI” – will apply not only to in-person purchases but to other publicly shared UI controls such as ATM screens, in-store feedback buttons, checkout PIN pads, elevator buttons, smart boards, and more.

What does that mean for future-ready brands? A deeper commitment to providing an AI-empowered customer experience will be necessary to compete, but brands that succeed will find a way to provide this while also baking into their strategy a human-centric element that keeps the customer at the center of each interaction, and maintains efficiency, security, privacy, and choice.

What trends can you anticipate seeing? Which transitions will you need to make? Here’s some insights.

Touchless Technology

The latest user behavior shows that most people prefer a touchless environment instead of a high-end touch screen, however smooth and gliding the input is. According to a recent study, 77% of customers expect non-touch interactions for customer experiences. More than 62% expect the same touchless experience even after the current pandemic subsides.

The value proposition of touchless technologies solidified in 2020 and has accelerated the growth and deployment of this tech. This means the world wants technology with no or zero user interface (zero UI), and that also means that a big part of a successful customer experience will mean providing a touchless experience wherever and whenever possible. While the obvious application of touchless POS technology interfaces comes to mind first, in the longer term, a superior CX could be dictated by such touchless experiences as the use of chatbots, the integration of artificial intelligence, and data-driven predictive analytics in prompting suggested products and services, and integrated machine learning to help automate and streamline the entire process of making a purchase from start to finish online.

Gesture Recognition

At first blush, the notion of a consumer experience that is predicated on something as intrinsic as a hand motion might seem almost too futuristic to comprehend, but in fact, it’s not all that new to many brands who have seen the AI revolution coming for some time. We’re already seeing real-world examples of gesture recognition technology in industries that touch everyday life. The gesture recognition market stands at $9.8 billion as of now and is expected to reach $32.3 billion in 2025.

Back in 2013, Douwe Egberts positioned coffee machines in airports that provided coffee to travelers who yawned. Another brand that is getting gesture technology right is BMW, with its gesture control integration that allows users to change settings with a wave, rather than fumbling with a touch screen. Surprise and delight encounters such as these can have a lasting effect on not just the customer experience, but customer lifetime value.

Recognition and control of gestures are also emerging, especially in contexts involving confidential information, such as the use of an ATM, where the best option might not be interacting through speech. Gestures with haptic feedback can provide an invisible sense of touch and safety.

And gesture recognition is also making a big impact in other areas of the customer experience, particularly in retail. The ability to know what merchandise has been viewed and ultimately rejected is crucial if traditional retailers want to compete against the likes of Amazon. Digitally native retailers have long used behavioral analytics to understand customers’ purchases and shopping habits because their machine learning models see all the data and use it to inform smart predictive analytic models.

For brick-and-mortar retailers, however, that type of behavioral data has been harder to come by and utilize. Deploying gesture recognition in stores can arm retailers with similar predictive power. By analyzing customer data created by interpreting human gestures using mathematical algorithms, retailers can discover which customers are most likely to buy certain products.

3D Eye Tracking

We’ve all heard the saying: The eyes are the windows to the soul. Whether it is true or not, it is a fact that our eyes provide a massive amount of personal information. Therefore, the eye-tracking market is projected to grow from $368 million in 2020 to $1,098 million by 2025.

3D eye tracking facilitates precise and nonintrusive tracking of the gaze of passersby. It can also monitor and forecast the intent and interest of individuals toward an object. BMW is again disrupting this market with its gaze detection system, which detects the gaze of the driver or rider into separate areas of the in-car infotainment device.

Using eye-tracking AI and the data from it can inform and enhance the customer experience in a variety of ways. A whole host of data of where the eyes of individual customers go first or spend the most time looking at can eventually lead to a completely customized experience for the individual consumer, giving them a wholly personalized journey through your brand touchpoints from start to finish.

Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR)

Automatic speech recognition (ASR) is already playing a major role in capturing critical interactions and providing us valuable insights into the customer experience. Much of the now-ubiquitous Internet of Things (IoT) is powered by ASR, and “smart” homes are becoming more and more in demand as everything from lights being turned on and off to what’s on TV to complex security systems are being automated by ASR technology.

Low latency ASR for remote work, especially for nonnative users or those with speech or hearing differences, is driving the market that will reach $21.5 billion by 2024. Voice authentication in mobile banking and even the hotel industry is looking at novel approaches with voice recognition like voice solutions for elevators and voice assistants for hotels to handle everything from guest services to checkouts.

As consumers become increasingly dependent on ASR technology like “Alexa” and “Siri” customer experience will be informed by the technology as well. ASR can also provide deep data-driven insights into customer behaviors and psychographic data, which can empower a highly specific and unique CX to consumers both now and in the future.

Take-Aways

With widespread adoption and expanded acceptance, touchless technology is on track to provide brands with the ability to personalize every interaction to individual users, while also providing them a safety-conscious environment within which they can have a superior customer experience. Brands that are concentrating NOW on driving these types of AI technology within their own organizations will be those who win the touchless race.

If AI is something you’re just beginning to utilize within your organization or even if it’s still a completely foreign concept to you, Group FiO can help. We’ve been on the data-driven AI train for a while, and we know how to help our clients deploy its power using a scalable, customized approach that empowers their customer experience and ignites customer lifetime value. Take advantage today of our FREE Trial offer and get a jump on the future of customer experience.